For a very short while in August 2011, my family and I lost our sanity and moved to the crazy beautiful and crazy city of Bangkok. Our decision to cross continents was très rapide and très dramatique et emotional: We departed our beloved country on its Independence Day. I only spent three months in Bangkok but everyone I know thinks I lived there for five months. They think so because..I told them. *hangs head in shame*
Three months sound like a freaking vacation trip. I assure you it was anything but.
For me, Bangkok was a mix of weird and awkward encounters, with a dash of sweetness and sourness, but things I look back and laugh at now. I will always remember the people I met there.
An example of this is J.J, my dad’s friend’s girlfriend. Like most Thai people, she was extremely generous and kind. She was a strong, confident woman and I might have become good friends with her had I stayed longer.
One time she brought her little car to our building. From the window of my room, I could see J.J in the driver’s seat and a funny little creature in the next.
Is that a freaking bear?
Bangkok was a weird land, so it could have been. But thank fully, it wasn’t. It was an adorable Siberian husky instead, the most beautiful I have ever seen. Actually, he is the only Siberian husky I have ever seen. With hazel eyes and a fur soft as silk, he was an absolute scream. For someone named Junior and at five months, he was a bit big.
It was love at first sight. He was an irresistible ball of fur that I wanted to hug and never let go. And like his owner and most Thai people (except cab drivers), he was very friendly.
But it was Bangkok, not Pakistan. Things were strange and people were weird. The culture changes came into notice when instead of tying a leash on Junior and keeping him outside our house or in the car, J.J just brought him in. Just. Like. That. Maybe, in her head, our friendship had reached the stage of Mi casa, su casa. What can I say? People find their comfort zone with me way earlier than I do with them. Next thing I know, she will be changing her clothes in front of me. Or maybe that’s just how they did it in Bangkok. The ball of energy that he was, Junior started doing repeated sprints, from the t.v lounge to the kitchen. And I watched as my mom silently prayed that he didn’t poop in the one (literally, one) pan that we had.
Judging from our stern faces, J.J realised the awkwardness and said:
“Here we keep our pets like our family. Not like animals. Locked in cages”
It reminded me of the scene in Sex and The City where a fur activists flungs red paint on Samantha’s fur coat and screams “Murderer!”
Walking into J.J’s house and seeing a life size Winnie the Pooh toy which obviously belonged to the dog, made me eyebrows twitch. We don’t even buy toys that big for our own babies. It was weird but I tried telling myself that this was all okay because J.J treated him like a son. See, she was right. I do come from a place where they keep dogs in cages. Where they think letting a dog into the house is unholy. It never stopped my dad from buying dogs. But that was that. We didn’t let them in the house. Or let them sleep on our beds. Or feed them pepperoni pizza (though, i think did gave my dog ice cream once).
This was all very new for me.
“So where does he sleep?”
“He shares the room with my brother”
“You mean, the room upstairs? I thought I only saw one bed in it..”
“Yes, that’s Junior’s bed. My brother sleeps on the floor.”
I struggled to keep my facial expressions in place. It’s okay , I told myself, animals are more important than people here .
“And sometimes when it’s too hot, he sleeps in the fridge! “
EXCUSE ME?! How can you possibly keep your dog in your fridge? How can you even fit him into one? He’s no chihuahua! J.j actually made the effort of taking out all the plastic shelf things in the fridge to provide me a display of how she fit Junior inside the fridge.
“And what does he eat? I suppose no animal food?“, I said with a smile to tone down the sarcasm.
“He eats what we eat“.
“Mostly burgers and fast food. Oh, and he eats ice too!”
I’m surprised he didn’t just get up and start speaking Thai.
This was no animal.
But did he act like a human because they treated him like one? Or was he just..human?.
One time we took him to a mall. Less than half an hour in, a crowd gathered around us to look at this ah-ma-zing ball of fur. People patted his fur and said how beautiful he was while I was right next to him. It was quite a site, really. Me, pushing the cart like a slave pulling the chariot, while Junior enjoyed the ride and applause. Had he been able to wave at the crowd, it would have made the perfect scene.Not that I was ever jealous of Junior or how admired he was by everyone, even strangers or how soft and white his fur was..but this was a bit weird. For me.
During all those three months in Bangkok, I never thought of him as a dog. He was very well behaved-I never heard him barking at any cat or any other dog. He didn’t move around with his kind : the only people he hung out with were his family and mine. He would always sit in the front seat of the car and hang his head out of the window, to enjoy cool wind upon his face. If you didn’t let him sit there, he would sulk like a kid being deprived of his favorite ice cream. Meanwhile I, at the back of the car seat, prayed that he doesn’t get hit buy a fast driving motorist (this was very common in Bangkok). He never pooped inside the house. He would shake your hand and if you talked to him, it would seem like he is listening to you.
I refuse to believe that he was a dog. Maybe some cute, hazel eyed Buddhist didn’t live a good life and was reborn as Junior. There is no other explanation.
Have you ever seen/had an animal that behaved like a human? What do you think causes them to behave as humans? Socialization? What’s the weirdest thing you have seen in other cultures?